AFE/Department of Defense Tour – May 20 - June 10, 2002
Eleven members of Cheerleaders of America departed for the Middle East on May 20th,
knowing we would have the best experience of our lives with memories that would remain
with us forever.
The adventure began by departing Sky Harbor Airport on a Monday morning for Cairo.
After a 22-hour trip, we arrived in Cairo late Tuesday night to meet some of the wonderful
military personnel from the area. Early Wednesday, we departed by bus to the military
compound with a stop on the way to see the ancient Egyptian Pyramids and the Sphinx. We
arrived at Abu Hammad for a welcome luncheon. We ate lunch with the troops and had an
opportunity to talk to them about what they do on a daily basis.
We did our first show that night in an Arabian styled tent on a stage that the troops had built
for us. We entertained the military personnel with our 90-minute variety show consisting of
dancing, singing, fire twirling, gymnastics and audience interaction. It was a great time and
a wonderful audience.
The next morning we were disappointed to leave all our new wonderful friends, but it was
time to head to North Camp. North Camp was just as rewarding and we met so many more
terrific friends. The troops were very appreciative of our visit and it made us feel we were
truly bringing a touch of home to them. After another short stay, we were off in a very
small (approximately 15-seater) plane with French flight crew to South Camp.
At South Camp we met up with our Armed Forces Entertainment escort, Major Tony
Millican. Major Millican is the Southwest Asia coordinator for AFE and has dedicated this
entire last year to providing constant morale lifting visits to all the deployed military
personnel throughout Southwest Asia and the Middle East.
South Camp provided us the opportunity to visit some very remote sights where small
groups of troops man the posts. These troops live in tents in the incredibly hot desert for a
month at a time….their appreciation of our visit was indescribable since they do not have the
opportunity to join the main camp for entertainment shows. The show at South Camp was
outdoors with the Red Sea as the backdrop. The audience was phenomenal
left us with a vivid memory that will always stay close to our hearts. For our finale number,
we build the nations colors to “God Bless the USA”. When the red, white, and blue came
together on the stage the troops RUSHED to the front of the stage and sang for the remainder
of the song. It was breathtaking!
Next stop was Frankfurt. We had the opportunity to meet some of the units being sent to
undisclosed sights. We signed autographs and spent as much time as possible with them
before their departure, knowing that was the last smile they might have on their faces for a
while. We had a day off to do laundry, practice and just catch up on our organization for we
would not be seeing another day off for a long time.
We departed Ramstein Air Base on a C-141 Cargo plane for Turkey with an intermediate stop
in Jordan. We met new friends with the flight crew, some full time military and others Air
National Guard Reserves. They allowed us to visit the cockpit and even view a take off and
landing from there. We arrived in Turkey to find out our plans had been altered and we
were being transferred to a C-17 (huge cargo plane) in route to Uzbekistan. From the time
we left Ramstein to the time we arrived in Uzbekistan we really are not sure how many
hours passed, but we do know it was two days later. We were learning first hand just a
small piece of what our military personnel experiences while defending our great country.
Keeping track of day and time definitely becomes a challenge. It was on this long 2-day
journey that we met our very special friend, Kristen
from Lake Havasu, who was on her way to an undisclosed location for 6 months. Kristen, we
want you to know that we thoroughly enjoyed having you join our group for the short time
that you did.
The next day we had the opportunity to visit some units to sign autographs and take photos.
We were asked if we ever got tired of taking photos and it was such a great feeling to be able
to say, “we are honored to take photos with all of you.” Our visit to them was such a small
thing for us to do compared to all of them dedicating their lives to protect our freedom. The
troops get two hot meals each day and they eat MRE’s for lunch. The dining hall manager
was so wonderful and made us a special hot lunch, pizza and salad, and it was terrific. We
did a show that night for an awesome audience…we know the troops had a great time, but
we want them to know that we had just as good a time. We did photos and autographs
afterwards and they truly made every one of us feel we had truly brought them a “Touch of
After a very incredible flight through the mountains, our next stop was on the tarmac at
Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. We waited on the plane for a short while to enable security
to be double-checked. Then, off the plane to the middle of no where. It was very windy
which provided the visibility to see the snow covered mountains slightly in the distance.
This was a surprise visit to the military personnel and were some of the warmest smiles that
we will always remember. With our time limited, we signed as many autographs and took
and many photographs as we could, leaving signed posters behind for those that were unable
to come and see us. Once again, we would have loved
to stay for several days and visit every unit to let them know how we truly appreciate
everything they are doing for our wonderful country, but it was time to proceed to the next
One more Mil Air flight had us landing in Manas, Kyrgyzstan. Another wonderful group of
new friends greeted us. Once checked through security, we were taken to our housing on
the base, a brand new tent they had just completed for our visit. It was huge with cots for
everyone and plenty of room for our unbelievable amount of luggage we had with us. We
did a tour of the base that night to meet and greet the military personnel at this location. We
followed the next day with unit visits and once again met all kinds of new friends. We were
taken to the flight line to see the F-18’s and the pilots dressed one of our cheerleaders in a
suit ready for take off. We did a show that night and had another absolutely incredible
audience and lots of enthusiasm for audience participation. The crowds were always so
appreciative and made us feel so wonderful with their standing ovations. Next was the part
of the trip we always disliked, the goodbye, but it was time to move on.
Our next stop was Qatar where we met another wonderful group of people at Camp Snoopy.
Late arrivals were our thing, so we proceeded to housing and crashed for the night. The next
day brought a visit to another base, followed by a show that evening with great support from
the military personnel and more energetic audience participation. Our stay in Qatar was
very short for we were then off to our last country, Kuwait.
Our arrival in Kuwait was in the late afternoon to about 115-degree weather. After we
passed country clearance, we proceeded to our housing facility, the Marble Palace, an R and R
location gifted to the US military personnel by the Kuwaitis. We were greeted again by
awesome people and made to feel most welcome. Our first show was at Camp Doha followed
by visits and shows the next four days to the Kabols, which are remote locations out in the
desert very close to the Iraqi border. It was at these locations that we were gifted with
memories that will last a lifetime. At the Virginia Kabol, the troops pulled their tanks right
up to the stage to watch the show. The very next night at the New York Kabol, during our
finale number to “God Bless the USA” the troops raised their weapons, sang, and cheered.
Both nights were unforgettable. All the troops were once again so appreciative of our visit,
that the end of the shows brought tears to everyone.
Our last show of our tour was at Al Jaber Air Base, which greeted us with totally awesome
hospitality. The show was at Panther Pit, the sand volleyball court, and left an amazing
lasting impression when, in the middle of the show, the airmen moved the bleachers to the
sand court to be close to the stage. They were another phenomenal audience and showed us
their utmost appreciation with a standing ovation at the end of the show…what a way to end
a show and the last performance of the tour. We followed the show with a photo and
autograph session and once again met some wonderful individuals that we will always call
Our last day in Kuwait, prior to a night departure, was highlighted with the visit from
Donald Rumsfeld, the US Secretary of Defense, to Camp Doha for interaction with the
troops. In addition, all of the members from one of the units each wrote thank you notes to
us for our visit…….they met us at dinner and handed us a huge manila envelope full of the
notes. We were so taken back, words cannot describe the moment.
Then, it was back to the Marble Palace to try and pack all our belongings back into our
suitcases after being on the road for 22 days. With our luggage in a cargo van, we proceeded
to the Kuwait International Airport for our 22-hour trip back home to Phoenix.
We would like to share one more memorable thing from our trip. In appreciation for the
cheerleaders visit, a very special individual we met at one of the air bases had an American
flag flown in a fighter jet over Afghanistan in honor of the Cheerleaders of America support
to Operation Enduring Freedom during the summer of 2002. The flag was authenticated with
a certificate and is on its way to the Cheerleaders of America headquarters in Arizona.
We, the Cheerleaders of America, want everyone we met to know that we feel we have been
truly gifted to have the opportunity to visit your home away from home. The memories and
experiences will stay with us forever. What you do for our country is well beyond honorable
and we will always remember you and keep you in our prayers. For everyone here at home,
we would like to send a message to you that all of these brave men and women are risking
their lives on a daily basis to protect our freedom here on the home front. If you could
remember them by keeping them all in your prayers it would be appreciated more than you
will ever know. God Bless all of you, God Bless all our military personnel, and God Bless